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Youth group resurrected in historic Newtown
B-TUFF spearheading Florist Club’s summer recreation programs
06272018 NEWTOWN 06.jpg
Jackie Lipscomb, 17, director of the Newtown Florist Club's Bright Teens United for a Future program, listens to Nahriah Glasper, 15, not pictured, in Gainesville, Tuesday, June 26, 2018, as they discuss what direction to take with the club's revived youth program. - photo by David Barnes

Jackie Lipscomb, 17, can’t hide the joy she feels in following in her mother’s footsteps.

“It’s kind of cool to know that my mother was in it before,” she said of the Bright Teens United for a Future youth leadership group, or B-TUFF.   

As the director of the long-dead but now resurrected youth group serving the historic African-American Newtown neighborhood of Gainesville, Lipscomb is finding her voice as she prepares to enter her senior year at Gainesville High.

She recently helped the Newtown Florist Club, a decades-old civil rights organization, host a series of community meetings on affordable housing and rental discrimination.

And earlier this month, Lipscomb attended a leadership training conference in Dahlonega.

“It was very important for me to join this,” she said of B-TUFF. “I want our youth to know that everyone has a voice and they will be heard.”

It’s pretty cool for mom, too.

Irene Lipscomb was a member of B-TUFF in the early 1990s before membership slowly dried up.

Lipscomb said the youth group provided opportunities for underprivileged, minority youth to broaden their horizons and worldview.

For example, the youth group won an essay contest with the prize being a free trip to Disney World. It also raised money for various youth activities in the local community.

“It means that the work we put into it is not going to just go down the drain,” Irene said of B-TUFF’s revitalization.

B-TUFF is spearheading the Florist Club’s summer recreation programs, which include basketball tournaments, movie nights, dance classes, arts and crafts, and reading, bicycle and gardening clubs.

“The neighborhood recreation model has always been a part of community life in Newtown,” Lipscomb said. “When we as young people today hear the stories of how kids were raised here, what we hear most is that there were activities going on all the time to keep children involved and having fun during the summer months. B-TUFF wants to revive that sense of community.”

The youth group is planning twice-monthly meetings beginning in July to discuss issues facing the community, develop leadership skills, plan social events for youth and mentor youngsters.

Aniyah Norman, 17, a rising senior at Johnson High, said it’s time to address a lack of youth involvement in the Newtown neighborhood and wider community. That’s why she joined.

“I like B-TUFF because it’s putting forth that initiative,” she added. “It’s like, some people are just going to keep complaining and some people are actually going to do something. I think it can be a really good thing.”

Carrying on a tradition is no easy task. 

But Delinda Luster, a longtime member of the Florist Club, said the civil rights organization is too important and has served the community for too long to just let it slowly slip into the annals of history.

“It would really be a shame to let the Club die out completely,” she added.

Re-launching B-TUFF gives Luster solace, however.

“If we do something like this, we’re going to have to have young people,” she said with Lipscomb in mind. “She’s a burst of sunshine.”

For Lipscomb, the opportunity to serve as a role model for other youth is motivation enough to revive history.

“I would like to see (B-TUFF) become something that everyone knows about … all the youth and the whole community,” Lipscomb said. “I know we’re going to grow. I hope the whole community will come together and be a part of something great.” 

B-TUFF youth leadership group

For more information on Bright Teens United for a Future and to learn how to volunteer for the Newtown Florist Club’s summer recreation programs, call 770-718-1343 or email newtown193@gmail.com

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